'Judge Hatchett' Returns for New Season
ED GORDON, host:
This fall marks the sixth season for Judge Glenda Hatchett's popular television court program. The show has attracted viewers in part because of her innovative approach to rehabilitation. Her unique approach is drawn from her extensive experience and accomplishments as a judge in Georgia. She became that state's first African-American chief presiding judge of a state court and served as the department head of one of the largest juvenile court systems in the country. I asked Judge Hatchett if she ever anticipated her television show would become so popular.
Judge GLENDA HATCHETT: There were people who said to me at the very beginning of this that it wouldn't last more than a season because people don't want to see the good news. And I said, `Well, if that's true, then I will go on and do something else.' But that has turned out to be different. I do think that people really want to see people's lives changed, and they're fascinated by these interventions and, hopefully, other people's lives are being changed, too. People stop me in the street to say that a lot.
GORDON: I want to get your take on something. Purists, who say that it's wrong to have a judge sitting on television, to have an entertainment element of it, that it almost bastardizes...
Judge HATCHETT: Right.
GORDON: ...the judicial system--What do you say to that?
Judge HATCHETT: Well, that's very interesting because, frankly, when I was first approached by the producers to do this show, my reaction was `Absolutely not.' It was only after it was agreed that I would get to develop the show consistent with my values and what I believe, and I am trying to take the power of television to use to help change people's lives. I understand the power of television in ways that I am touching people that I will never know. But I do know that this is a very different platform than the one I had in Atlanta, Georgia, and so I'm very grateful for it and I guard it with great respect.
GORDON: Judge, you were known for what was called `creative sentencing,' when you were on the bench. You really do believe that you need to do more than just sentence someone to jail.
Judge HATCHETT: Well, you can imagine being in a Southern city that--with a lot of conservatives--that people weren't very fond of my approach oftentimes. We have seen recidivism rates with juveniles in this country when we've taken the strict course of just locking them up. And prisons are packed in America today. And if you did, statistically, looked at a sampling, you would find that the vast majority of those young people started out in the juvenile justice system. So it seems to me the key is how to do we devote them out of the system when they're teen-agers and how do we keep them out so that we aren't having the alarming problem of overcrowded populations in our prisons when they're adults?
GORDON: Talk to me about the idea of what you're doing this season with the concept of interventions.
Judge HATCHETT: It's the same philosophy. We've taken some different cuts at it this year. We sent a young girl, who was 13, very promiscuous, I mean, several sexual partners, who had no clue about the fact that she was playing Russian roulette with her life, and I sent her to South Africa to a rural village to spend time in an orphanage where literally every child there had lost their parents to AIDS. And she came back with a very different attitude about responsibility and what this horrible disease means. But I specifically use that case as a way of educating us to the global crisis, and particularly to the disproportionate impact that the AIDS epidemic has had on the continent of Africa. I've shot some PSAs after that case, and I'm trying to use these interventions, of course, to tell bigger stories.
GORDON: Well, we go into season six...
Judge HATCHETT: Thank you, Ed.
GORDON: ...and we'll look forward to all of what you do and you do so well, Judge Glenda Hatchett.
Judge HATCHETT: Thank you.
GORDON: Always good to talk to you.
Judge HATCHETT: It is wonderful to talk to you and thank you so much for having me.
GORDON: Judge Hatchett is also the author of the book "Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say."
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